After creating a lot of drama and suspicion, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema did the right thing Friday and voted for the Senate resolution to advance President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. But that vote was just a first step. Final passage is a few weeks away, and beyond the COVID bill, there are numerous other priorities from immigration to voting rights that will probably require Democrats doing something about the filibuster. Which means that so far, all Manchin and Sinema have done is pass the first test.
Of the two, Manchin is easier to understand. He represents a state that Donald Trump won by nearly 40 points in November. The situation in West Virginia is so unwelcoming to Democrats that even Governor Jim Justice, who originally ran as a Democrat, became a Republican in order to survive.
So, what is Sinema thinking? A plausible if charitable explanation is that she wants to emulate the late Arizona Senator John McCain and play the maverick. “Everyone knows that I am very independent-minded,” Sinema told Politico last October. “And that it’s not super useful to try and convince me otherwise.” That sounds nice—but it’s a horrible misreading of the historical moment she’s in. The Democrats have a mere two years to do as much as they can for the American people. What the party needs right now is unity and discipline, not mavericks.